Report: Increasing Indigenous Inclusion in the Entertainment Industry
Written and compiled by Maya Rose Dittloff
A still from Almost an Island, directed by Jonathan Vanballenberg. (Photo Credit: Sarasota Magazine)
Indigenous representation in the United States is nothing short of abysmal. There exists one funding body (the Sundance Indigenous Program which selects about three emerging filmmakers a year for funding opportunities) and one school focused on developing Native talent for the entertainment industry (Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM).
What barriers face Indigenous communities in the United States? How can we work to address inequality for Native communities?
Factors and Barriers for Indigenous People in the United States
- Affects ability to:
- Attend film school.
- Form a like-minded cohort/network.
- Shoot a short film (minimum $10,000).
- Take unpaid internships.
- Affects ability to:
- Non-traditional status
- Native creators are more likely to pursue a career in entertainment later in life, and oftentimes have children of their own to support.
- Furthermore, because Indigenous communities are often community-oriented, many young creatives are dissuaded from pursuing a career in the arts because they deem the money is better spent on “useful” endeavors (i.e. necessities, and utilities such as water since many reservations don't have widespread access to clean water).
- Many Indigenous communities are rural, meaning oftentimes creatives don't have access to constant wifi or internet access.
- Lack of opportunities and programs that foster talent
- Many creatives drop out of the field early on, as there is little to no opportunity for mentorship, and the isolation drives many away from the field.
- Proximity to urban areas/film industry infrastructure
- The scourge of the "pretendian"
- Many actors cast in roles identified as “Native” are non-Native or have no legitimate claim to indigeneity. This is demoralizing for Native youth and emerging talent.
- Inadequate support for distribution
- Beyond the Sundance Indigenous Program, films about and by Indigenous filmmakers are often seen as too niche - and all too often are given a small to no release backed by little to no publicity and marketing.
- Time lost to casual and overt racism.
Native filmmakers Erin Lau and Shaandiin Tome workshopping short films at Sundance Institute Lab (Photo Credit: Sundance Film Lab)
Understanding the Issues in Indian Country
Oftentimes issues important to Native communities are forgotten, overshadowed, or outright ignored. It is a fact that Native youth have the highest percentage of suicide.
A brief summary of the facts/social justice issues:
- Native youth face the highest rates of suicide in the US.
- Native Americans are killed by the police more than any other racial or ethnic group.
- Upwards of three out of five Native American women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
- The Department of Justice reports Native women face murder rates up to 10x the country average. Because Reservations and nations are sovereign these federal crimes fall through the cracks and the FBI never investigates or persecutes - meaning many never see justice.
- Land back movement
- The erasure of Black Natives
- Abolishing Blood Quantum (essentially a pedigree a la dogs that determines how much “Indian blood” you have).
- Native communities are wary of outsiders, the government, and all issues have been perpetuated by the generations lost and silenced due to boarding schools and broken treaties.
Beyond a Land Acknowledgment: Meaningful inclusion of Indigenous communities
What works? How can I help?
There is no one specific answer. Understanding the “I” in BIPOC means having an understanding of a different way of life, a different set of unique issues and barriers, and fighting the invisibility of Native Americans by the entertainment industry. Native people are calling for a seat at the table, narrative change, inclusion beyond consulting, and a substantive change to how this industry works. This means abolishing: unpaid internships, production that harms the environment, dismantling on-set entrenched hierarchies, and establishing specific funds and outreach to rural and urban communities.
Of course, the biggest way to help is with dollars. Most artists and creatives are forced to abandon this line of work - beyond exposure, representation and role models, there has to be a clear path on how you can sustain yourself and your family.
Find out the communities and tribal colleges around where you live. What about some across the country? Native Americans are not monolithic and with over 574 recognized tribes today, it is important to be updated, informed, and ready to act.
If you hear of efforts of inclusion for BIPOC peoples, ask "are there substantive steps to include Indigenous communities and perspectives?" Speak up if not.
The film, Warrior Women, was the opening night film for California’s American Indian and Indigenous Film Festival. From left to right: Producer Anna Marie Pitman, Madonna Thunder Hawk, Festival Director Joely Proudfit, Marcella Gilbert, and Director Elizabeth Castle (Photo Credit: Warrior Women Film Website)
About the Author
Maya Rose Dittloff (ǔkkayǔ”kwīyinnimǎakii/Many Pipes Woman) is Mandan, Hidatsa, and Amskapi Pikuni (Blackfeet) from the Starr School region of the Blackfeet Reservation. She was trained at UCLA in the School of Theater, Film and Television where she specialized in Directing and Screenwriting. As a TV writer, director, and producer she loves stories with a strong female point of view. Presently, Ms. Dittloff is under contract with AMC Networks as a staff writer.
She is an Ambassador to the American Indian College Fund, a scholar for American Indian Business Leaders, a Junior Board Member for Young Entertainment Activists, and member of Panavision + Made In Her Image Catalyst Cohort.
About Free the Work
FREE THE WORK is a non-profit organization committed to making equity actionable in media and to creating opportunities for a global workforce of underrepresented creators behind the lens in TV, film, and marketing.
The organization strives to be the most innovative, effective, and action-driven resource possible until industry-wide equality becomes a reality. They accomplish this goal through their FREE THE WORK pledge, global talent database, community, DEI guidance, impact & insights reporting, and educational tools that help creators to demystify the media industries. FREE THE WORK exists to empower a creative revolution, led by the world's underrepresented creators.
The Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge Returns to Sundance with Youth Programming
Filmmaker Kyle Bell and creative advisor Shaandiin Tome at the Indigenous Program’s Native Filmmakers Lab. (Photo Credit: Austin Madrid)
The Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge amplifies the Sundance Institute’s rich legacy of support of Indigenous talent. The Lounge features live performances and engaging panels with noted Indigenous filmmakers, actors, industry representatives, and others supporting impactful narrative change as a means to create opportunities for Indigenous peoples to build sustainable careers in the entertainment industry.
The Lounge fosters conversations on authentic representation of Indigenous voices, stories and peoples within the filmed industry with panels that center social and cultural changemakers. Invited panelists will explore the change that needs to happen in order to redefine and create a new era of Indigenous representation both on screen, offscreen, and throughout the world. Featured panels include:
Changing Narratives: How Indigenous Television is Reclaiming the Story. Panelist will explore the changing landscape in television and streaming platforms, and how they have created new opportunities for Indigenous storytellers to share their narratives
The Heart of Production: Filmed Entertainment Careers. Indigenous professionals from across various production departments will talk about their journeys in pursuing a successful career in the filmed industry.
Phenomenal Women: Phenomenal Talent. Indigenous women who are acting, writing, directing, and producing film and television projects are at the heart of a rapidly changing entertainment industry. This panel will spotlight phenomenal Indigenous women who have revolutionized this new era of filmmaking.
New Native: The Work of Indigenous Actors Continues. This panel explores Indigenous actors and their work for authentic representation and narrative accuracy in the entertainment industry. This perseverance, by a cadre of Indigenous actors has led to new opportunities, such as roles created by and for Indigenous people in television; and streaming series and mainstream features that unseat colonized perspectives of Indigenous cultures and peoples.
The Art of Running the Show: Becoming a Film and Television Producer. This panel of seasoned producers will discuss the art and business of creating and producing elevated, authentic content for film and television. The conversation will center Indigenous filmmakers who have made their mark on the industry through their work in such films as Wild Indian and Rez Ball and television series, such as Rutherford Falls and Reservation Dogs.
Ryan RedCorn (Buffalo Nickel Creative Writer/Director), Brad Munoa (Pechanga Writer/Director/Producer), and Erika Soto Lamb (Paramount Network Vice President) discuss initiatives to amplify the voices of underrepresented communities at the Inaugural Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival. (Photo Credit: Eugene Tapahe/Tapahe Photography)
This year, The Lounge proudly launches a Youth Track that features a scriptwriting contest and youth workshops. The Lounge is partnering with Spyhop, a youth digital media arts program to provide a series of workshops that focuses on the creative process of filmmaking. These workshops are designed to build strong foundational knowledge for creating short film projects. With the support and experience of Spyhop and the mission of The Lounge’s Youth Track, students will be empowered to launch ideas into a visual media form.
The Youth Track also features the Gateway Entertainment Youth Scriptwriting Competition that was launched in October 2021. All teen participants attended two workshops that introduced them to the screenwriting process before submitting their final scripts. The winning script will be honored at the Youth Script Winner Award Ceremony during The Lounge and will have a public table read by professional actors.
The partnership between Gateway Entertainment and the Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge at Sundance is a natural fit for this youth track. “The most important aspect of the Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge from the beginning was to create windows of opportunities for the Indigenous youth,” says Pete Sands, founder of The Lounge.
Pete Sands (Photo Credit: David Carel)
Sands sees the partnership as an important means to support and mentor the next generation of storytellers, “This program is imperative because I want them to be able to break through the stereotypes and the cyclical violence most Indigenous youth get trapped by. So they can see the possibilities beyond what they imagined. It’s essential to keep our Indigenous youth inspired by helping fan the flames of their creative spark; making sure we are doing our part to keep that fire rising.”
Sharing the spotlight alongside the panels and workshops, is this year’s acclaimed Artist-in-Residence, Bunky Echo-Hawk (Yakima/Pawnee). Bunky will create original art pieces with live performances throughout the weekend. His art creates a voice for issues facing Indian Country and opportunities to raise funds to combat those unjust issues. The artwork he creates during The Lounge will be auctioned off on the final night.
The Lounge’s Artist-in-Residence, Bunky Echo-Hawk (Yakima/Pawnee).
(Photo Credit: Ryan Redcorn)
About Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge:
The purpose of the Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge (The Lounge) is to create and hold space for Indigenous filmmakers to network with other filmmakers and industry representatives during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT. The Lounge provides various programs and events designed to mentor and foster relationships within the industry, such as panels with noted Indigenous filmmakers, tribal leaders, Gateway mentors, industry representatives, and others who support social impact entertainment. The Lounge is curated with contemporary Indigenous art, food, and various pop-up shops. The Lounge also showcases Indigenous artists (e.g., screenings, live music, readings, comedy, art, food, fashion) and industry efforts to support and develop Indigenous filmmakers.
About Gateway Entertainment:
Gateway Entertainment is a new non-profit initiative dedicated to creating opportunities for under-served communities in filmed entertainment with a particular focus on developing behind the camera careers in the industry. One of the communities they have been working with is Indigenous peoples, as it is the most underserved community in filmed entertainment.
Film-making is storytelling. By providing opportunities in filmed entertainment to continue the tradition of storytelling by Indigenous peoples Gateway is supporting broader efforts throughout Indian Country to reclaim the narrative. Their mission is to serve Indigenous storytelling and economic opportunity by creating opportunities for Native peoples to be gainfully employed in the motion picture and television industry.
Guest Author: 'Tis the Season: Our Heritage, Our Medicine
(Editor’s Note: This Heritage Month special will be published until January 10.)
Valerie Segrest is a Native nutrition educator and the Muckleshoot Traditional Foods and Medicines Program Manager. She is an enrolled member of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.
Despite what mainstream and misrepresented history claims, our ancestors lived long and well-nourished lives. This longevity is linked with our heritage. Specifically, the knowledge we carry of our ancestral foods and medicines. For generations the ancestors put forth tremendous effort to uphold our health by perfecting and passing on their recipes full of wisdom and nourishment that clearly animate for us a health system that is inextricably intertwined with the lands we come from. Our inheritance is truly our traditional food and medicine culture, which represents our deep connection to the natural resources all around us – it is a living legacy that has the power to heal us and encourage our vitality.
As the seasons change people follow the foods, moving through the landscape and simultaneously embodying the dynamic energy of the phase upon us. In the Northwest, this time of year is called the “moon to put your paddles away.” Cold air activates our ancestral senses, signaling us to put away our summer energy and embrace self-reflection, quietness, prayerfulness and soul-nourishing activities. Winter is the period we need to slow down and feed ourselves not just physically but also spiritually. It is the time to cultivate our minds, collecting the work that served us and letting go of what no longer does – so that we can make room for new things to come that will help us to learn and grow. All of our energy is being called to examine the gravities of our presence.
It is the Tree People, like the Big Leaf Maples and the Sitka Willow, that reassure us of this teaching as they move their energy inwards and down toward the Earth, shrinking from the height of the futile sun. Their leaves change color and then gracefully fall to the ground, signaling the coming of winter. Without a spoken word, the trees urge us to follow their lead and take this opportunity to rest and tonify our bodies internally, so that we will be ready for the uprising of spring. We do this by eating our ancestral diet of warming foods that include roots and rich stocks made of animal bones. They are cooked slow and low so that the food has time to capture that warmth and then transpose that life energy inside of our bodies.
Getting in rhythm with the seasons is truly all about living in harmony with its spirit. This includes the instructions of both the prolific trees as well as the uncontrollable nature of seasons. In turn, these teachings have made us a prolific people. Since time immemorial our ancestors were diligent students of these great teachers. With great care they observed how nation upon nation of plants, animals, birds, fish and even fungi built a fully engaged communal citizenry. One in which every aspect of life is honored and valued. These observations commanded simple questions like “How can us pitiful humans be more like these powerful teachers? How can we embrace diversity, display humble generosity and be big medicine in the world?”
One of the most brilliant Native authors of our time, Robin shared the following reflection in her book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants about the generous presence of two trees in her life: “Their gift to me is far greater than I have ability to reciprocate ... Perhaps all I can do is love them. All I know to do is to leave another gift for them and for the future, those next unknowns who will live here.”
This contribution could have shared insights and perspectives on the first Thanksgiving feast, or what Native American Heritage month has to do with the state of health in Indian Country, but we know these stories already, right? We live it everyday and everyday we have the opportunity to become cold and bittered by our collective history or we can choose to deliberately focus our attention on our heritage and the meaning of it all. We can do this for ourselves, for the values that we hold and how those values keep us living. Our heritage is our medicine and this month is an annual reminder of that, but don’t let it be just one month – surrender your life to the seasons and to the incredible teachers that are waiting for you right outside of your door. Remember that the culture we carry is inspiring and when honored leads you to the most powerful self-care imaginable. Be assured that each of us carries an internal light. Stoke the fire, build your light, and nourish the dynamic energy and steadfast spirit power you’ve been gifted so that you may overcome obstacles and press forward to accomplish the work we were put here to do in this life.
To all my relatives, Happy Native American Heritage Month!
Author Valerie Segrest serves her community as the Traditional Foods and Medicines Program Manager and is the Executive Director of Feed Seven Generations, a Native-led nonprofit. Valerie aims to inspire and enlighten others about the importance of a nutrient-dense diet through a simple, common-sense approach to eating. Watch her TED talk to learn more: http://www.tedxseattle.com/speakers/valerie-segrest/
Wells Fargo Produces Red Feather Development Video
Headquartered in Flagstaff, AZ, the non-profit organization provides solar furnaces and other sustainable improvements, to help the Hopi and Navajo Nations build safer homes and resilient communities. When the shutdown of a large coal-fired power plant led to a heating crisis, Red Feather launched a healthy heating program to outfit homes with solar furnaces. The upgrades provided heat during daytime hours while also improving indoor air quality and health, serving as just one example of Red Feather’s “innovative approaches to utilizing sustainable technology,” said Victor Burrola, community development officer for Wells Fargo’s Social Impact and Sustainability Group.
The below video is where one can learn more about Red Feather and its alliance with Wells Fargo:
Videography Credits/Written by Janny Hu, Video by Dustin Wilson
About Red Feather:
Red Feather Development Group is a non-profit organization that empowers Native American communities to be self-sustaining to ensure safe and healthy homes for all who live on the Native American reservations. The organization has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where it won a "Use Your Life Award" from the Oprah's Angel Network, in Dwell, and in the Chicago Sun Times among other national publications.
Red Feather incorporates environmentally and culturally sustainable materials and practices into its education efforts. Work on the reservations is done in partnership with American Indian communities to address the severe housing crisis within their nations through educating on home weatherization, home maintenance techniques and facilitating volunteerism.
About Wells Fargo’s Historic Fifty Million Dollar Commitment to Indian Country:
In 2017, Wells Fargo committed $50 million to help address the economic, social, and environmental needs of American Indian/Alaska Native communities. The financial institution has awarded grants to national nonprofits, some which help create awareness of Native American culture, history, and contributions. Wells Fargo has been serving Indian Country for more than 50 years and provides financial services to more than 200 tribal entities across 27 states including community development projects.
My Journey at Standing Rock
By Cody Looking Horse
Cannonball River, North Dakota (NFIC)
My name is Cody Looking horse, I am Haudenosaunee and Lakota, Sioux and my mother is Dawn Martin-Hill and she is Mohawk Professor at McMaster University. My mom was the first native woman in Canada to get her PhD in cultural anthropology.
My father is Lakota, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th generation Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, living on Cheyenne River Reservation. I live with my mother on the Six Nations of the Grand River. I stay with my father in the summer at Sundance time (July - August) and over the holidays in December. I love being at my fathers ranch, horses roaming freely, it is a magical place, a sacred place, I feel warm and at home.
Every winter since I was 11 years old, I would leave school on December 14th traveling alone to join the Bigfoot Ride, a horseback journey from December 15th - December 26 retracing the footsteps of my relatives that were massacred at Wounded Knee.
Our journey is to mend the sacred hoop of the Nation. Also my father is the spiritual leader of the Dakota 38+2 ride, president Lincoln hung 38 Chiefs on Christmas day in 1862, the largest mass hanging in US history.
We ride to honour our ancestors. Every morning starts with a prayer and ends with prayer. It is hard, its cold, your sore from riding horse through the open plains, we sleep wherever we can, school gyms mostly, eat whatever the people can offer, and dance whenever we can.
They were in ceremony when the Cavalry gathered over 300 mostly unarmed women and children and massacred them. They laid frozen in the snow because a blizzard came through, their bodies on display wherever they were killed for three days. The image of my great-great grandfather in the snow haunts me. My Dad said a holy man had a vision, Black Elk, he was there at Wounded Knee as a child and escaped. Black Elk said, ‘the hoop of the nation was broken at wounded knee.’ The ride started in 1986 and the Bigfoot Ride was to ‘mend the sacred hoop of the nation.’ The youth did not want the ride to end in 1990 so my Dad helped them continue the journey to this day.
In the summer as I help with my father’s Sundance; you can learn a lot from visiting with the dancers, Elders and the supporters.
Last summer I found out there was a pipeline going through Standing Rock and youth had organized to protect the water, I felt drawn to join when Elders told me my grandmothers family were buried in the hills there. It was sacred land. My grandmother is Cecelia Looking Horse, Sitting Bull is her great great great grandfather and he is Hunk Papa and that is the nation of Standing Rock reservation, that is where Sitting Bull had his Sundance, on that sacred land.
Standing Rock is only two hours away from my dads Sundance at Green Grass. I begged my Dad to take me but he was busy with Sundance, so he arranged for his good friend, Julian to take me. We arrived and I didn’t know anybody there, yet that’s where my heart wanted to be, I spent the day there and made some friends and was so sad to leave. My spirit was moved to stay and protect the water and my ancestors graves. Returning home to Six Nations, Ontario to attend school, as the months went by my heart was still with Standing Rock and I thought about them all the time. I stayed in touch through Facebook as many Bigfoot and Dakota 38 + 2 youth riders were there protecting the water.
My mom arranged a ride to Standing Rock by a Mohawk Faith keeper named Kevin Deer. He was going there to bring our strongest medicine to support the water protectors who were getting maced, tasered, tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets while they prayed. I was so excited but I had just landed a job and wanted to graduate from high school. But I took a leap of faith and figured out how to work around school and go anyways. I learned so much from Kevin Deer on our ride to Standing Rock. He told me we had a Treaty with the Sioux Nation and he shared many stories - that is what I want to learn, not what they teach in school. I am so grateful. I walked away from an empty life of white mans education and working a job I didn’t like. We arrived November 12th and I am still here at Standing Rock to this day. I am writing this story from Standing Rock, this is my story.
When we arrived, it was a little bit uncomfortable because I didn’t know anybody anymore. I couldn’t find my relatives. There was a community there and they welcomed us and now they are all my family. My Dad had to travel so once Kevin left I was basically by myself. I saw father only a handful of times as he comes and goes to the camp, but he is a very busy man as the spiritual leader of the Oceti Sakowin camp. He helped set up the seven council fires of the Sioux Nation - that traditional government hadn’t been together since Wounded Knee.
I knew I had to make friends to survive, but have never been afraid to make friends and learning to be on my own, the Rides taught me how to meet new people, it teaches you people skills and leadership.
I have met the most amazing people at Oceti Sakowin and they cared for me right away because they knew my situation. I feel like they are my family now even though we just met a few weeks ago, I know they truly care for me and I am so fortunate and grateful to have made relatives with these people. Also very fortunate to have a place to stay, I am fortunate to know people that had hotel rooms to shower at the casino Prairie Knights which is 20 minutes away. Kind people allowed me in their hotel room. We would sleep on the floors or in a tipi with my uncles and family, so life was good. So many youth were there camping since July, and they are still there. It does not matter where you sleep as long as your there standing with my people.
Being here taught me a lot of life lessons and taught me to be self sufficient because I was not relying on anybody like my mom or dad. The youth are my friends that also had no family there. Youth had to figure out where we gonna sleep? Are we gonna be warm tonight? When is our next meal? It was up to ourselves to survive and nobody else. I was not used to being on my own but I learned quick because this was my decision to be here nobody else’s. Youth needed this and do not regret it and these are our lessons. Yes we miss our families, we thought about and missed our loved ones every day and we know exactly why we are here and what we are up against. The water is sacred to us, I have visited Little Buffalo, northern Alberta many times. I see what the government did to Chief Bernard Ominayak, one of the most traditional leaders I have ever met.
They used to hunt, drink from their stream when I was born now the oil, fracking, tar sands has contaminated their water, ruined the moose, gave animals gangrene, which they relied on for food for thousands of year and hardly hunt anymore. I do not want to see the same destruction to happen to my relatives land, we have lost so much already, we all have much bigger problems to worry about. Its a burden we bare as young people, worrying about losing clean air and water for our children, we should not be carrying this burden at such young ages but are up to the task.
Youth keep very busy watching peoples kids while they had important things to do or just help at the kitchen ( that was one of the warmest jobs because of the heat from cooking) or put tipis up, get poles scraped or just do anything anyone asked of me.
It’s pretty awesome to hang with celebrities like Shailene Woodley and Max Carver from teen wolf, but that was just a bonus. Even though they are actors from Hollywood, their hearts are good, they feel strongly about oil companies destroying our water and burial grounds. The fact that they are here to help and protect the water made them just our friends not fan’s of celebrities. They use their fame in a good way, to raise awareness, funds and on the ground helping out just like us. Max and I started to network on projects right away and he has started to raise funding for Standing Rock right and he spent some time here and we went to ceremonies.
We also were supposed to go to the front-lines the night our people were brutalized by police, they had water canons hosing elders, women and medics in freezing weather, they shot tear gas, rubber bullets took, one of our youth lost an arm from a concussion grenade exploding on her, and Vanessa Dundon losing her vision in one eye; they will never have their arm back or vision; this is what everyone doesn’t seem to understand.
But as we were going to leave we were invited to a yuwipi ceremony and went there instead. I could have lost my arm, my vision or been hurt badly too.
One of the biggest needs for the people what they had been struggling to do was to take showers and wash their clothes and he came up with the idea of getting showers and laundry facilities for the people at camp. I was with him on his project 100% and I’m helping him along the way, talking to elders and finding out what is tribal land can the facilities could go and finding out what he needed to know and who to talk to and setting up the eco-village. We are working on how to make the camp all ecological and to not pollute the land and soil with the soaps people use to wash. I cant thank him enough for doing this for us, we all need to learn how to not use oil, chemicals and eat healthier, all our people.
When our unarmed people that get arrested and brutalized at the front lines and get sprayed with chemical warfare at night over the camp, its easy to look around and get upset with the things that are happening, and missing your family every day does not help, it was kind of hard to be upbeat doing the interviews and going to meetings, finishing projects and just helping anybody in general but there are bigger problems than just feeling lonely. I think the Chairmen telling these water protectors to go home once the easement was denied very hurtful, they sacrificed for us as we must for them.
I joined the Youth Council here at Standing Rock, they are the one’s who started all this, they struggle being here, but we help each other. At one of their meetings they honoured me by asking me to be a representative, because of who my dad is and when they told me about the selection it was really humbling.
The Youth Council are an amazing group of dedicated visionary individuals. I recruited more youth by posting on Facebook that my Six Nations they need to stand with me at Standing Rock and couldn’t believe they actually showed up days later! I was so happy to see my very good friend from back home Dawson George, and many others like Karissa John bringing me homework from our school.
The Mohawks have a big camp at Standing Rock since the fall, very proud of their strength. Youth told me they were already wanting to come and my FB post inspired them make the long journey here, so many came from all over Canada, worried about the eviction the army corps set for December 5th.
Mohawks set up blockades over CN railway moving oil, Seneca’s marched in the streets and so on, love my people’s support. So happy the youth traveled here too, leaving exams, holiday fun to stand here, to stand up against the US governments eviction of us on our own lands, saying we are trespassing was so very wrong and angered so many of us, we weren’t going anywhere.
The scheduled eviction only helped us because thousands of vets poured into camp by December 4th. My mom came to stand with us too. Over 2,000 veterans came because they saw the police brutality on unarmed people, it’s like Wounded Knee all over again, we didn’t know what the army, national guard would do with Morton County police - a militia that are working for and supporting big oil instead of real Americans. That upset veterans too.
What happened next threw everyone off, the veterans asked for our elders to forgive them for the horrific acts of the US soldiers on the Sioux nation, the veterans said at one of the gatherings “we are sorry we murdered your people for your land, tried to colonize your culture, stole your minerals from your sacred lands’ etc. And everyone was moved to tears - so many spiritual things going on I can’t write about it all.
We heard news at camp from Chairmen Archibult the Army Corp of Engineers denied the easement needed to drill under water - we broke out in cheers, celebrating but everyone knew the denial wouldn’t stop the drilling because they didn’t listen to the law the first time, those tanks and guns need to turn around and arrest DAPL, they are breaking so many laws.
They dug up our ancestors burial grounds on purpose and when water protectors tried to stop them they got dogs to run up on them and 13 people were bitten badly. Why weren’t these violent people arrested, instead we were and anyone helping us was thrown in “dog cages.” Is this what civilization is? It hurts so deeply, it hurt my Dad and the Elders deeply, they brought those dogs to hurt my people, everything they are doing at the front lines is to hurt my people in some awful way.
How are they getting away with this ? I see so much coverage about it on the news and videos on social media now and why is it not already stopped? Why are they not arrested? We are just praying protecting water and sacred burial grounds and this is what we got to deal with, real terrorist.
Would they be allowed to go through white peoples cemeteries? They terrorize by destroying the environment with pipelines. Even the Pipeline was to go through Bismarck but their town is 90 percent white and they just said no, so it came through our lands.
They terrorize with racism, lying about us, lying on T.V. and the real issue here is racism, it is so openly real here just being native and going into gas stations and restaurants you get the dirtiest looks.
I woke up to grab the free breakfast in Bismarck and this white guy in the hotel me and my mom was staying at told all of us ‘people’ to go the f-k home, he was swearing at an Elderly and his children were sitting right there, looking so afraid, so sad, he is teaching them hate.
I can't even go to the laundromat without being told to “go back home” but little did they know this is my home, this is my land, it is where my ancestors walked and lived for thousands of generations. It’s not normal or right to be scared to go stores to get supplies in town and facing so much hate, dirty looks and getting confrontation for the colour of my skin, your beliefs, your identity.
But we are all in this together, I now know that Muslims, African Americans, and Asians have been dealing with this for years and I feel for them. I love everybody and I just wanna ask racists, why are you so hateful? What did we ever do to you?
I don’t know you, it’s not normal to have hate for someone that you don’t know. That just is not okay or a healthy way to live but I also pray for them because they don’t have a culture, roots or real connections to land, community, ceremony and what that love can feed for your soul, not hate, it turns it black, dead. I cant imagine life without ceremony, it would be empty. I think that is their problem, they forgot how to be real human beings.
The biggest problem my people and youth are dealing with today is depression and drugs, alcohol, but this here Standing Rock, it gives us purpose. No drugs, no alcohol, prayer, ceremony, love and accepting. Some youth have said, if I die defending water & ancestors, its a good death - better than suicide or overdose…” To our leaders, supporting Standing Rock is much more than stopping DAPL, it’s honouring the prophecies of the seventh generation, we are here, we need you to stand with us - not tell us to go home like these racist in town, to have our own reject us is hurtful. We are Crazy Horse’s vision, my dad said it was foretold by all colors would unite around us, Standing Rock stands on Sitting Bull’s holy ground.
Please don’t tell us to go away, support the Youth of Standing Rock. People need to know that we are NOT protestors, we are water protectors, #waterislife, #miniwaconi, #standwithstandingrock, #nodalp, #wearetheseventhgeneration, #wearehome.
Cody Looking horse is Haudenosaunee and Lakota, Sioux. He resides on the Six Nations of the Grand River. An accomplished Rider, he joined the Dakota 38 + 2 from December 15th - December 26, in 2008 to retrace the footsteps of ancestor’s to honour them. President Lincoln hung 38 Chiefs on Christmas day, the largest mass hanging in US history. He hasn’t been home for Christmas in 8 years, instead rides in frigid weather across the open plains with his Father. He is currently a representative of Standing Rock Youth Council.
Bottom two photos courtesy: Chief Bigfoot Band Memorial Ride Facebook Page
Opinion: Every Farm Counts
Per the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 56,092 farms and ranches operated by 71,947 Native Americans sold a total of $3.24 billion in agricultural products raised on 57.3 million acres.
By Zach Ducheneaux, Intertribal Agriculture Council
In spite of notable efforts on the part of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and others, American Indians continue to be one of the most underrepresented groups in the Census of Agriculture. The number of American Indian producers participating in the Census has increased tremendously since the questionnaire became the responsibility of the USDA in 1997, and especially since 2007 when every American Indian farm and ranch began reporting individually. But we still have a lot of work to do to get everyone represented in the data.
Indian Country is faced with many challenges created by policy – some of which was created without our input. When federal, state, and local farm policy and programs are contemplated, NASS data are what policymakers reference to inform their decisions. Programs developed based on crops grown, conservation practices used, and even agri-finance opportunities can all be adversely affected if we don’t tell our story through participation in the Ag Census. If we, as a community, do not fill out the Census of Agriculture, the data will not reflect our numbers or our needs and that could have a negative economic impact on our communities.
Zach Ducheneaux advocating on behalf of Native American farming communities. Photo Credit: American Forum
A stark example of this adverse impact lies in the 2012 Census data which showed that the 56,092 farms and ranches operated by 71,947 Native Americans sold a total of $3.24 billion in ag products raised on 57.3 million acres. The average size of a farm or ranch operated by Native Americans (1,021 acres) was over 200 percent larger than the national farm average (434 acres) while receiving only 67 percent ($6,698) of the amount of farm program payments received by others ($9,925). When you contemplate the per acre disparity, you can clearly see the reason we need to be more active.
Another example of the importance of the Ag Census is demonstrated by what it doesn’t count. As a result of the failure to recognize subsistence production, tens of thousands of our Alaskan Native relatives go totally uncounted. As a result, there is virtually no mention of subsistence agriculture in federal farm policy.
The Census of Agriculture aims to be a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and their operators, and remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data available at the state, county, and Tribal level. Embrace the opportunity to be heard. Take advantage of one of the important ways to help our communities. Your response will provide data that will absolutely be used to make decisions on our behalf, like funding for loans, conservation efforts, disaster relief (e.g. drought), and education.
The future is ours to shape. It is not too late to complete your 2017 Census of Agriculture. The paper questionnaire is due by June 15. However, the Ag Census can be completed online at www.agcensus.usda.gov through July. For questions about or assistance with your form, call (888) 424-7828.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Zachary Ducheneaux (Cheyenne River Sioux) heads the Technical Assistance Program for the Intertribal Agricultural Council and serves as Secretary of the Great Plains Region.
Cover Photo: Courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture
Navajo Youth Co-Pilot Planes Over The Grand Canyon
By OLIVIA RICHARD
PHOENIX (AP) _ Cadet Amaris Tracy climbed into the cockpit of a small plane, her face calm but her hands shaking slightly.
``I'm really excited to get to fly the plane for the first time,'' Tracy said, adjusting her headset. ``At the same time, it's 5,000 feet up in the air and I don't really know what I'm doing.
``I'm really nervous. What if something goes wrong?''
After all, Tracy, 13, is only in the sixth grade. This was her first time in a plane and this day, she'd be the copilot.
The Arizona Wing of the Civil Air Patrol is placing cadets as copilots in a series of orientation flights over the Grand Canyon and the Navajo Reservation near Shonto. The patrol, which was formed as a national defense program in 1941, conducts air search operations and offers an aeronautical education to youngsters 12 to 18 years old. Leaders said this is the first squadron on a Native American reservation.
Just after sunrise on one April day, eight Navajo students lifted off, pushed by the tailwinds of tribal history.
Flying through barriers
None had ever been in a plane until they strapped into the Cessna single-engine plane.
Clad in camouflage and buckled up in the copilot's seat, Tracy marveled at the experience.
``Honestly, it's a crazy that they let us do this. Crazy in a good way, I guess, because this is such a cool opportunity,'' she said.
Second Lt. Frederick Fout, squadron leader and principal of Shonto Preparatory School, said such experiences are elusive for most of his students.
``A lot of the kids based on the Navajo Reservation are from very remote areas,'' said Fout, who also is a member of the U.S. Army Reserves. ``They don't have access to these kinds of opportunities. This represents a historic moment for most of these kids and the community.''
Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, national commander of the Civil Air Patrol, said the orientation flights are exciting and exacting.
``We want to encourage these young cadets to not only push themselves physically but to strive to surpass the barriers that they set for themselves,'' Smith said.
Located in Glendale, the Arizona Wing of the Civil Air Patrol supports America’s communities with emergency response, diverse aviation and ground services, youth development, and promotion of air, space and cyber power. (Photo Credit: Arizona Wing Facebook Page)
The curriculum includes five orientation flights to teach cadets piloting and navigation. The students are paired with FAA-certified civilian auxiliary pilots.
``I think it's really unique what we do here with CAP,'' said Col. Martha Morris, a pilot for JetBlue and wing commander for the patrol. ``I think it's really cool to see these young people experiment with flight for the first time.''
A Navajo legacy
The squadron, the newest in Arizona in almost 20 years, was designated the Code Talker Bahe Ketchum Composite Squadron 211.
Bahe Ketchum, a former Marine, was a Navajo Code Talker, recruited to craft the Navajo language into a military code that confounded Japanese troops in World War II.
``The Code Talkers are individuals of great honor for our tribe,'' said Ferleighshea Yazzie, the mother of cadet Tymicus Yazzie. ``To have my son be a part of that legacy. Wow, it makes my heart want to burst with happiness.''
The eight-decade-old cadet program offers students the chance to advance in a military career, Morris said.
Tymicus Yazzie said he wants to join the Air Force after he graduates.
``I want to serve like those before me,'' he said. ``One day, it will be my turn.''
Flying toward the future
Dakota Ross, who comes from a line of military veterans, said the day held special significance.
``My dad is a veteran, and he served very bravely,'' Ross said. ``So did my brother. I just want to make them proud.''
Fout said pride comes with the program.
``For so many of the kids in this program, being a part of the CAP and getting to wear the uniform, is like a badge of honor,'' he said.
Ferleighshea Yazzie said she was nervous and proud as she watched her son soar over the canyon.
``Watching my son take off. Oh my gosh, it was scary. But at the same time I'm excited for my son,'' she said.
After the plane descended and glided to a stop at Page Airport, Tymicus Yazzie got out and kissed the ground.
His fellow cadets shared his sentiments.
``I definitely want to do it again,'' Ross said, laughing. ``I just don't want to do it right away. I'm not sure my stomach could handle it.''
First Nations Announces Grant for Indigenous Led Environmental Justice Efforts
The mission of the grant is to preserve and protect Native community access and control of natural resources, with a particular emphasis on combating extractive industry practices.
First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has received a $200,000 grant from the Broad Reach Fund of the Maine Community Foundation. The funds will be used to provide support to Native American-led community efforts pursuing environmental justice, with a particular emphasis on combating abusive extractive industry practices occurring in Native communities.
Previously, in late 2017, with the generous support of the Broad Reach Fund, First Nations was able to provide $100,000 in anti-extraction rapid-response grants. The organizations that received support included the following:
- Diné C.A.R.E. (Citizens Against Ruining our Environment) Durango, Colorado - $20,000
- Gwich'in Steering Committee, Fairbanks, Alaska - $20,000
- The Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Pawnee, Oklahoma - $20,000
- Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, Keshena, Wisconsin - $15,000
- Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Portland, Oregon - $20,000
- Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, Venetie, Alaska - $4,000
- Native Organizers Alliance, Seattle, Washington – $1,000
Michael E. Roberts, First Nations’ President & CEO states, “For too long, outsiders have dictated the use of Native American assets. We are happy to be able to provide some support to community-based efforts looking to ensure Native communities can control development processes locally, especially when it comes to resource extraction.”
First Nations welcomes expressions of interest for the new grants from Native American communities and organizations that are engaged in grassroots and community-based efforts. The mission of the grant is to preserve and protect Native community access and control of natural resources, with a particular emphasis on combating extractive industry practices occurring in Native communities. Grants generally will range from $15,000 to $20,000 each.
About First Nations Development Institute
For 38 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit www.firstnations.org.
About the Broad Reach Fund
The Broad Reach Fund supports nonprofits that are aligned with its broad interests in social justice, economic opportunity and environmental health. The Fund seeks forward-thinking solutions to social, environmental and economic problems. It favors constituency-led organizations and places a high priority on safeguarding fundamental human rights and democratic practices.
(Cover Photo Credit: OpenClipart-Vectors)
Canadians Stage Protest to Stop Trans Mountain Pipeline
By Nick Engelfried
Originally published by Waging Nonviolence
Tsleil-Waututh water protectors at the peaceful protest in Whey-Ah-Whichen, now the site of Cates Park in North Vancouver. (Photo Credit: WNV/Nick Engelfried)
For thousands of years, Whey-Ah-Whichen has been a site of importance to the Tsleil-Waututh people. This hospitable flat peninsula in the Pacific Northwest was home to one of their major villages, standing in the shadow of surrounding hills and mountains covered in towering Douglas-fir and other ancient trees. Today, Whey-Ah-Whichen is the site of Cates Park, so-named by the descendants of English colonists in what is now British Columbia. It overlooks Burrard Inlet, a finger-like extension of the Salish Sea separating the cities of Vancouver and North Vancouver. The Tsleil-Waututh still live nearby, many of them on a reserve just down the highway.
In July, Tsleil-Waututh community leaders brought together several hundred people for a rally on the site of the former village. Many carried signs with messages including “Water is Life,” “Stop Kinder Morgan Pipeline,” and “Protect the Water, Land, Climate.” They came to participate in a fight against one of the largest proposed fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Canada, an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline that would transport tar sands oil from Alberta to a Kinder Morgan-owned storage facility directly across the inlet from Whey-Ah-Whichen. There, oil from the pipeline would be loaded into tankers for transport to the United States or across the Pacific.
The rally was only the latest manifestation of the indigenous-led resistance to the Trans Mountain project, which has grown in size and boldness this year. As more and more people arrived at the park, some prepared to take to the water in kayaks, canoes and other small vessels. Hundreds of others massed near the shoreline, watching as the boats headed across the inlet and gathered in front of the razor-wire fence erected by Kinder Morgan to keep people away from its facility. From one of the canoes, Tsleil-Waututh elder Amy George led a water ceremony expressing participants’ intent to care for and protect the inlet.
On the shore below Whey-Ah-Whichen, the smell of salt and slowly-drying seaweed permeated the air as the tide receded. Canada geese floated on the water among the kayaks, and tiny crabs scurried between pebbles on the beach. The crabs, a traditional food of the Tsleil-Waututh, were one reason people had gathered here today.
“The whales and fish, the crabs and lobsters, they need us to be their voices because they can’t speak for themselves,” said Amy George after her canoe returned to shore. George is credited with launching the resistance to the Trans Mountain pipeline in the Greater Vancouver area.
Protectors, not protesters
“We’re not protesters, we’re protectors,” George said earlier that morning. “We’ve been doing this since the first contact with Europeans, fighting to protect our land and water. Now some Europeans are joining our movement — we’re finally getting together. If the oil from this project spills, one dump will ruin the water from here to Prince Rupert, here to California.”
When the Tsleil-Waututh first learned about plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline, then backed by Kinder Morgan, not everyone was sure the nation of slightly more than 500 people could realistically take on one of North America’s largest oil infrastructure companies. Cedar George-Parker, a member of the extended George family that has led the resistance, described how Amy George convinced the community to oppose the project: “She told us we needed to warrior up.”
Kinder Morgan’s plan for Trans Mountain involves expanding an existing tar sands pipeline to triple its carrying capacity. Among other things, this would entail building 14 new storage tanks on Burrard Inlet and boring a tunnel through nearby Burnaby Mountain so that a new branch of the pipeline can deliver more oil to the facility.
According to the grassroots environmental group Stand.earth, the expansion project would lead to a 700 percent increase in the number of tar sands oil tankers plying the ecologically sensitive Salish Sea. An accident on a tanker, or at the Burrard Inlet facility, would be devastating for communities throughout the region.
“What we need is clean water for our children and grandchildren,” Cedar George-Parker said to the crowd. “For many years our people took our food from the water. Now it’s time for us to give back, to protect the inlet from the oil and bitumen that will kill it.”
A study commissioned by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation predicts a large oil spill in the inlet would expose over a million people to acute health effects from air toxins. “I don’t want my little brother to be one of those people affected,” George-Parker said, citing one of his main motivations to keep fighting.
The movement escalates
While resistance to Trans Mountain has been building for a decade, it heated up this year as Kinder Morgan started preliminary construction activity along the pipeline route. In March, members of the Tsleil-Waututh built a traditional watch house near the route of the pipeline in Burnaby just south of Burrard Inlet. Around the same time, 10,000 people gathered nearby for one of the most massive displays of opposition to the pipeline so far. Tsleil-Waututh water protectors and their allies have blockaded initial phases of construction, protested at Kinder Morgan’s annual shareholder meeting in Houston, and turned the watch house into a visible symbol of resistance. More than 200 have been arrested during nonviolent actions opposing the pipeline so far.
Then, in late May, with the deadline fast approaching, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Canadian government would spend billions to buy the Trans Mountain project from Kinder Morgan and build the expanded pipeline using taxpayer dollars. With the stroke of a pen, the Trans Mountain tar sands expansion turned from a private industry endeavor to an official project of the Canadian government. Trudeau, previously regarded as a progressive voice for action on climate change, emerged with his climate reputation in tatters. Within 12 hours of Trudeau’s announcement, thousands of people gathered for an impromptu rally in Vancouver expressing public outrage.
“In the beginning of this fight, we were trying to protect our land and water from Kinder Morgan,” Amy George told the crowd in Whey-Ah-Whichen. “We’ve made them give up, and they’ve gone back to Texas. I don’t care who’s still backing this pipeline, we’re still saying no. It would take until 2050 to pay off the taxpayer debt Justin Trudeau wants to use to finance this project. I’m a taxpayer, and I don’t want to be a shareholder in dirty energy.”
Sending a global message
Even as the movement to stop Trans Mountain has been forced to shift targets from Kinder Morgan to the government of Canada itself, members of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation — including the George family — have continued to lead the opposition. Will George, another family member who played a key role in organizing the rally, recently spent 40 hours with 11 other water protectors suspended from a bridge, blocking a tar sands tanker leaving Burrard Inlet. And in the years since Amy George first convinced her community to oppose Kinder Morgan, the movement to stop the pipeline has become a rallying point for indigenous leaders throughout Canada.
“The message we’re gathering is now getting out to the world,” said vice president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Bob Chamberlain, another one of the speakers. “We’re sending a message that we don’t need to build and capitalize on something that just isn’t sustainable, like this pipeline. Our opponents characterize us as ‘activists,’ as ‘radicals.’ Imagine, we’re radicals because we want clean air and water. Well, if that’s what a radical is, I’m glad to be one with you.”
Chief Bob Chamberlain (Owadi), Vice President of the Union of British Columbian Indian Chiefs. (Photo Credit: Wilderness Committee FB Page)
The movement to stop Trans Mountain has drawn comparisons to the encampment that delayed construction of the Dakota Access pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in 2016. During the waning days of the Obama administration, that movement brought together tribal representatives from across North America to oppose a major oil pipeline that threatens the Standing Rock Sioux’s drinking water and right to control their natural resources. As happened at Standing Rock, the Trans Mountain opposition has been joined by thousands of non-indigenous activists concerned about everything from endangered species to climate change.
In the Trump/Trudeau era, when national governments on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border have firmly allied themselves with the oil industry’s expansion plans, countless people across North America have taken inspiration from Standing Rock. And from Burrard Inlet to the Gulf of Mexico, indigenous peoples continue to lead the way. Indigenous-led encampments have sprung up in the paths of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana and the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. And if construction begins on the Keystone XL pipeline next year — as TransCanada, the owner of that project, predicts it will — the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has sent clear messages that its members intend to stand in the way.
Nor will the resistance to Trans Mountain be going anywhere. As the possibility of major construction work beginning on the project grows imminent, and with the watch house already serving as a permanent base for water protectors along the route of the pipeline, the potential exists for a confrontation on the scale of Standing Rock. If that happens, protectors like Amy George believe they will simply be upholding their nation’s long tradition of caring for the land.
“We’re not doing something new by carrying on the fight for the inlet,” George said. “During thousands of years that we were here, there were no endangered species. We cared for the streams and didn’t overpopulate to tax our food sources. If there’s a spill, it means death to everything in the water. It means saying goodbye to the few orcas left in the Salish Sea.”
Even a recent heart procedure won’t stop George. “I’m still here saying no,” she said. “We’ve been saying no to Kinder Morgan all along, and it doesn’t change things now that we have to fight the so-called leader of the country.”
Waging Nonviolence is a source for original news and analysis about struggles for justice and peace around the globe.
Forest Service using new tech for post-fire work in Montana
By Perry Backus
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) _ The work is only beginning for the U.S. Forest Service when the last wisp of smoke disappears from any large wildfire.
After more than 700,000 acres of national forest lands burned in Montana this summer, the agency decided the usual way of doing business wasn’t going to cut it this year.
Somewhere close to 2,000 fires were reported on national forest lands.
Thirty-six of those grew large enough to require what the agency calls a burned area emergency response (BAER). Those efforts consider everything from replacing culverts and reshaping roads to keep sediment from roaring down hillsides, to deciding which burned trees can be salvaged for timber and where trees will need to be planted.
The bulk of that work has to be done quickly in order to be ready for spring runoff and to ensure the timber that’s set aside for harvest retains its value for local mills.
In a normal year, most of that work would be accomplished by employees working on the individual forests where the fires started.
But more than 700,000 acres burned in a single season in one region isn’t normal.
Regional Forester Leanne Marten recognized that when she formed, for the first time, a regional post-fire response incident management team and charged it with using the most up-to-date technology to rapidly zero in on areas where both emergency work to protect the landscape and timber salvage could be accomplished.
Mike Elson led the 20-member team.
“The employees that normally do the BAER work are also the same employees who respond to the wildfires,” Elson said. “It was a really grueling and hard year. Employees are typically working 16 days, getting one day off every two weeks. They were breathing smoke and dealing with the anxiety that large fires bring just like everyone else. People were really wiped out at the end of the year and then they were faced with this huge workload.”
By taking a regional approach, Elson said the team could help those forests, like the Lolo, that faced work on numerous large fires and provide a consistent way of getting it accomplished.
“Like it or not, everything we do is highly scrutinized and we have to explain to a judge why we did it,” said the team’s deputy incident commander, Steve Brown. “If we are all doing it consistently, it becomes a whole lot easier to explain.”
With time of the essence, the team turned to technology to help it pinpoint the places needing emergency work to manage runoff, and places where burned timber could be salvaged.
“With so much devastation, we had to make decisions on where to put our attention,” said Vince Archer, the regional BAER coordinator.
During the past decade or so, the Northern Region has developed a vegetation database through satellite imagery and bio-physical modeling that was used in deciding where timber could be salvaged.
“That helped us identify, in a consistent manner on different forests, what the fire had burned through and where some of the opportunities for salvage might be found,” Brown said.
The maps allowed the agency to create a coarse filter that could identify areas that wouldn’t either be economically or environmentally feasible for timber salvage.
For instance, the Sunrise fire burned about 26,000 acres southeast of Superior.
Brown said when the team used the mapping resource to exclude areas that weren’t national forest lands or were considered wilderness, roadless or protected riparian areas, the potential acreage for salvage dropped to about 17,000.
The next filter looked at accessibility and marketability of the timber. The slopes adjoining roads couldn’t be more than 35 percent above road. The timber needed to be no more than 1,500 feet from the road. That cut the potential area down to about 9,000 acres.
Finally, the acreage that was left had to hold enough trees to make a salvage sale worthwhile to local mills.
Those areas that have a road to them are places where the agency has done previous timber management, which cut into the potential for salvage sales. To be considered, the team decided there had to be at least 5,000 board feet per acre with a minimum average stand size of a 10-inch diameter.
That reduced the amount of acreage available for salvage down to 2,400 acres, with the potential of about 22 million board feet.
After completing the analysis, the team determined that about 48,000 acres, or about 6.7 percent of what burned, had the potential for salvage timber sales, which could provide up to an estimated 516 million board feet.
But after working with the local wood products industry representatives about what they could actually harvest in the shortened time period that salvage timber would remain merchantable, Brown said the number dropped to somewhere between 250 million and 370 million board feet.
At this point, 11 fires have been selected for salvage projects, including Rice Ridge near Seeley Lake, Caribou near Eureka and Sunrise near Superior. Nine of the fires will require an environmental analysis before any salvage work will begin.
The region is applying for an emergency situation determination that would shorten the environmental analysis by 90 days by removing the objection period.
There are some fires where salvage isn’t being considered, including the Lolo Peak fire.
Brown said the main reason is capacity of both the Forest Service and industry.
“Once it went through the whole ranking process, it didn’t rank out as having high opportunity,” Brown said. “There are limited roads and where the roads are, there’s not a lot of merchantable timber.”
Most of the timber that could be harvested would require a skyline system. That’s the same system that will be used on other salvage sales in the area.
“With the ultimate goal is be able to sell these, Lolo Peak wouldn’t compete well with the other ones that will be offered,” Brown said.
It also takes good deal of time and effort to complete an environmental analysis.
“We already have to contract some of the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) analysis to handle just what we have now,” Brown said. “We could call in all the troops from across the region to focus just on this, but that would create a big impact to other work including the increases in expected output we are getting from Washington.”
Elson said industry representatives weren’t interested in making that tradeoff.
“They don’t want to see a boom and bust cycle either,” Elson said.
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture